‘Community’ responses to the Urban Design Guidelines have made a belated appearance on council’s website. Several factors are evident:

  • The overwhelming majority of submissions come from developers/planners representing clients. Some submissions would appear to be duplicated – mainly from the earlier submission(s)
  • These submissions invariably argue for less ‘prescriptive’ guidelines including no mandatory height provisions and the ability to go beyond 12 storeys in some cases. Only 2 specifically mention the originally suggested 6 metre setback that has now been reduced to 5 metres.
  • Resident views highlight the length of the document (167 pages) and how inaccessible it is to those without any planning knowledge.
  • Both developers and residents abhor the lack of definition, analysis, and the clear lack of quantifiable, strategic justification.

We thought it worthwhile in this post to focus on how developers view the guidelines as a planning document and what they basically think of council’s performance in this endeavour. Surprisingly perhaps, we feel that many residents would agree with the concerns raised – if not the conclusions (ie pro-development & less constraints). The following extracts reveal once again the shoddy, knee-jerk planning that is the hallmark of Glen Eira Council – and this comes not from residents but from the development industry. Yet this document was passed by councillors with very little change from the first version and once again basically ignoring community concerns. Nor did any councillor, claiming that they had read the submissions, bother to address ANY OF THE CONCERNS listed below!

Here is what developers think:

It is our submission that a definition of Strategic and Urban renewal Areas should be included in the QDG (Quality Design Guidelines). It is also requested that the information listed under Preferred Locations throughout the QDG be clarified, since it often overlays and/or is unclear.

Under Shared Side Boundaries development for Shop Top in commercial Strips areas the QDG states that when  abutting a heritage residential precinct or building, all upper levels must be recessive when viewed from nearby heritage street scapes. This is a vague and unhelpful statement, which does not explain what constitutes recessive, or from where within a heritage streetscape a view should be cast.

The Guidelines should be prepared to be read as a standalone document, yet key information required by readers is not provided. There is a lack of clarity around the identification of a site’s location.

We do not believe the process for community benefit has been appropriately defined nor strategically justified in the documentation provided. Such a proposal is in our view inappropriate and inequitable, particularly in the context where increased density will deliver on metropolitan policy objectives. The idea that scale can be agreed subject to community benefits (“cash for height”) does not represent orderly and proper planning. The processes of negotiation with Council has not been explained. It is our view that surety around this concept is required before it is adopted as part of the Quality Design Guidelines and certainly before it is sought to form part of the Planning Scheme. In our view, a more appropriate process is the use of a Development Contribution Plan Overlay rather than a piecemeal negotiated approach where only some developments contribute to the required community facilities and services.

The prioritisation of commercial land uses in strategic/urban renewal sites requires more consideration. The documentation does not provide any justification for this. The commercial viability and/or economic impact of introduction of so much retail and commercial space into mixed use precincts (if all developments are to utilise the lower three floors for non-residential uses) does not appear to have been assessed. To make the guideline meaningful, such a proposition may be justified if Glen Eira has an acute shortage of commercial or retail floorspace and an assessment exists (by suburb) to demonstrate this.

The guidelines identify “no additional overshadowing of identified key public open space” and yet do not provide the reader any indication of what the key public spaces being referenced are. Other sections also call up access to ‘winter sun’ but again no parameters are provided as to the key hours.

Clearly, additional work to the document is required in order to clarify how preferred building types will be applied and ensure that the guidelines can be read as a standalone document.

The seventh principle relating to the notion of ‘community benefit’ is subjective and does not provide quantifiable guidance to assess a ‘community benefit’….In our previous submission we strongly suggested that future Quality Design Guidelines include quantifiable criteria as to what defines ‘community benefit’. Such criteria would minimise uncertainty surrounding this principle.

We note that the preferred building typologies are not responsive to the actual context of each neighbourhood centre, nor do they permit site and context-responsive design. The preferred building typologies will introduce conflict with the design principle of the QDP which offer a greater degree of flexibility for great design, and provides a more performance based framework to assess design.

The guidelines do not provide any methodology as to how the Strategic Site typology would be identified through the municipality…..We suggest that a precinct analysis is undertaken for all neighbourhood activity centres and transport corridors to determine the locations of strategic sites and precinct specific requirements.

We suggest that upper level setback be considered at a precinct level. This is to ensure the existing character and role of precincts is considered in full

policy change. Overall, the challenge in this policy is that a proper review of the neighbourhood character has not taken place to accommodate the recent variation by the State Government. The review seems to rely on the existing character study, which could be outdated. Additionally, basic considerations  as the average lot size, lot depths and frontages should be properly reviewed to inform such a substantial

The guidelines are highly arbitrary and the level of rigour/technical justification behind many of the guidelines is not clear.


What is evident from these comments is that council simply has not done the strategic work necessary to justify any of the proposals contained in the document – including the proposals in the various structure plans. As with the introduction of the zones, what we have is another ‘one size fits all’ approach coupled with meaningless waffle.